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Review: “Saltburn” was freaky, filthy and funny

Silverspot Cinema, located at University Place, is pictured in October 2015.

Silverspot Cinema, located at University Place, is pictured in October 2015.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Saltburn as an A24 movie. This error has been fixed. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

Emerald Fennell's dark comedic thriller, “Saltburn”, arrived in late November to positive reviews, albeit its more disturbing themes. 

The movie enticed me for both the beauty of Jacob Elordi and the gorgeous, dark academia vibes promised by settings like the University of Oxford and the fictional Saltburn estate.

To all Elordi fans, get excited: The first two minutes of the movie were a drunken, hazy fancam of the man. 

I loved this movie.

It was crazy, grotesque, hilarious and freaky all at once — emphasis on the freaky. This film embodied every meaning of the word freaky.

It follows Oliver Quick, played by Barry Keoghan, as he arrives at Oxford and immediately doesn’t fit in with its posh, exclusive social scene. 

He wistfully watches Elordi’s character, Felix Cattan, from afar. A bike mishap between the two creates an opening for Oliver in Felix’s elite social group. However, it is made clear that Oliver’s only meaningful connection within the group is with Felix. 

As an American student at a posh British university myself, this part of the movie was a true representation of the omnipresent role that class plays in British culture. 

I didn’t truly understand the full power of classism before I began attending the University of Edinburgh, so I really empathized with Oliver.  Fitting into elite British social circles is tough for anyone who is not from the south of England, such as the Liverpudlian Oliver.

Oliver’s unrequited obsession for Felix, the prince of Oxford’s high-class social scene, is the catalyst for the rest of the film. By the end of the year, a sudden tragedy in Oliver’s family leads to him receiving an invitation for a summer with Felix’s family at the Saltburn estate.

I knew very little about this film going into it, but I expected Felix’s rich family to prey on Oliver, especially since his experience at Oxford made the audience sympathetic with his invisibility, home life and love for Felix. 

The second Oliver gets to Saltburn, he becomes seemingly possessed by sexual aggression and horrifying confidence. What follows is a series of sociopathic, unnerving acts that reveal a much darker side to Oliver, until it all comes together in the end. 

The camera lingers on its most grotesque shots, successfully adding to the discomfort of the audience. I thought one early long and disgusting shot was bad, but I didn’t realize just how many others were yet to come. 

The movie’s twist ending on a popular social commentary came at a huge surprise to me. 

I loved the complexity of Oliver’s character and how the audience learns of his true psyche. 

Because of his earlier portrayal, the audience doesn’t want to change their feelings towards him — I still cheered for him to get with Felix, even as his character became more unnerving. 

However, it’s the discovery near the end of the movie that finally shifts the audience's understanding of Oliver. 

The movie was structured to hide the climactic actions until the very end — very “Knives Out” of them — so it was hard to truly support my hypotheses surrounding the consequences of those actions. 

I really enjoyed this, though, because I like suspenseful reveals.

There were truly gory scenes and freaky sexual encounters, but the strongest part of the movie was its ability to create genuine comedy within these moments. 

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I found myself laughing out loud at the outrageousness of this movie. The comments made by Felix’s posh parents, Sir James and Lady Elspeth, show how incredibly out of touch their level of society is — James doesn’t even know where Liverpool is located. 

The film made a lot of intentional imagery choices to exemplify details. In particular, the film’s choice to illustrate the time jump through taking us to a cafe full of COVID-19 precautions was genius.

The final, outrageous scene depicts Oliver reveling in all the evil he had done to get to this point. He has become an actor in an environment he otherwise only would have been allowed in as decor, and this paradox has left me thinking about this movie non stop since.

@dthlifestyle |